They just wanted to go to school.
The Supreme Court ended school segregation three years earlier in the decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. But Arkansas Governor Orval E. Faubus refused to accept the court’s authority over his state’s schools.
In September 1957, Faubus vowed to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School. On the first day of classes, television news cameras captured the image of nine African-American students facing a humane barricade of armed National Guardsmen.
When President Eisenhower ordered Faubus to recall the National Guard, an angry mob of more than 1,000 white residents formed outside the school.
On September 23, local police secretly escorted the Little Rock Nine into the school. When the mob learned the students were inside, they rioted. The police were forced to remove the students to quell the violence.
President Eisenhower stepped in again, sending U.S. soldiers to accompany the African-American students to school. It was the first time federal troops had been called in to protect African-American civil rights since Reconstruction. It was also a high-profile test of the U.S. government’s resolve to enforce integration.
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site still operates as a local high school. Tours are available during school hours. Exhibits, audio-visual displays, and oral histories tell the story of the Little Rock Nine.
Did You Know:
In 1999, the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in honor of their role in the struggle for African-American civil rights.